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Keywords:

  • affect processing;
  • assessment;
  • implicit and explicit;
  • structural change

The need to establish the efficacy of psychoanalytic long-term treatments has promoted efforts to operationalize psychic structure and structural change as key elements of psychoanalytic treatments and their outcomes. Current, promising measures of structural change, however, require extensive interviews and rater training. The purpose of this paper is to present the theory and measurement of Levels of Emotional Awareness (LEA) and to illustrate its use based on clinical case vignettes. The LEA model lays out a developmental trajectory of affective processing, akin to Piaget’s theory of sensory–cognitive development, from implicit to explicit processing. Unlike other current assessments of psychic structure (Scales of Psychological Capacities, Reflective Functioning, Operationalized Psychodynamic Diagnostics) requiring intensive rater and interviewer training, it is easily assessed based on a self-report performance test. The LEA model conceptualizes a basic psychological capacity, affect processing. As we will illustrate using two case vignettes, by operationalizing implicit and explicit modes of affect processing, it provides a clinical measure of emotional awareness that is highly pertinent to the ongoing psychoanalytic debate on the nature and mechanisms of structural change.